An ACL Tear Can Happen To Anyone - What You Should Know
ACL Tears and NFL Athletes
Even professional athletes in peak shape can suffer from an ACL tear. So far, before the 2017 NFL Season has even kicked-off, a total of 30 NFL Players (and counting) have suffered from a torn ACL.
It is not only NFL players and professional athletes who are at risk for an ACL tear. While taking a hit to the wrong part of the leg can certainly cause ACL injuries, it is more common for damage to the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) to be the result of a non-contact related injury such as landing wrong and wrenching the knee, sustaining a fall, or simply taking a wrong step.
The ACL is one of the most commonly injured ligaments of the knee, with as many as 200,000 occurring annually. It can also be an extremely debilitating injury, especially to an athlete. As a physical therapy office specializing in sports rehab and performance training, we have a lot of experience helping our clients deal with recovery after an ACL surgery or injury. Here is advice we share with our clients on what can be done to reduce the risk of sustaining an ACL injury, and what to expect after an ACL repair.
Are there Exercises You Can Do to Prevent ACL Injuries?
There is nothing you can do to fully prevent all risk of sustaining an ACL tear. There are, however, certainly ACL strength building exercises you can do to redu
ce that risk. Generally, exercises designed to reduce the likelihood of an athlete sustaining an ACL injury work by building strength and stability in the muscles and tendons that support the knee ligaments and entire leg. Some of the most effective exercises include:
- Strength Building Exercises: Strengthening exercises build muscle strength and improve nerve control in the knee, protecting the ACL. Some of the most effective knee strengthening exercises include:
o Rear Foot Elevated Lunges
o Dead Lifts
- Stability Exercises: When working to improve your strength through balance, you are not only improving muscle strength but also improving the neuro-muscular pathways that can help improve coordination and agility. Yoga, dance, and plyometrics are all effective methods for improving balance and coordination, which allow your body to protect itself from injury.
o Landing Drills
o Single Leg Hops
o Single Leg Broad Jumps
o Single Leg Squat Variations
- Stretching Exercises: An important part of all injury prevention involves warming up before any exercise. Stretching before any exercise will initiate blood circulation to your muscles and joints. Your goal should be to move with good alignment, focusing on proper technique and allowing your body to flex without pushing past the point of a gentle stretch. Stretches to protect the knee include:
o Hamstring stretches
o IT Band stretches
o Quadricep stretches
o Hip Flexor stretches
- Rest: Most importantly, whether you have sustained an ACL tear or are simply trying to prevent one, you must get adequate rest in between workouts. Fatigued and overworked muscles and joints are significantly more prone to injury across the board.
Repeating these strength building and flexibility exercises 3-5 times throughout the week and getting adequate rest in between workouts is the best way for to prevent a potentially game-ending ACL injury.
What to Expect After An ACL Injury
An ACL tear is not only incredibly painful, but can significantly limit your physical abilities for a long time. Whether or not your ACL injury requires surgery to repair, your body will require a significant amount of time to regain leg strength and dexterity. If you do not allow your body adequate time to recuperate and take the appropriate steps to return to physical activities safely, you risk causing yourself debilitating pain or even reinjury.
Every patient will recover from an ACL injury or surgery to repair a torn ACL differently, depending on their age, health, and level of physical activity prior to the injury, in addition to the injury itself and the extent of surgery (if any).
Generally, during the 3-6 months recovery time from any ACL injury, you can expect:
- Light weight-bearing and walking for a period of 2-3 weeks.
- Avoid twisting, side to side motion, or pivoting movements for about 3 months.
- Cycling, swimming, and elliptical training are encouraged during the recovery time, but running and even long walks should be eased back into slowly.
- A supportive knee-brace is sometimes recommended during all athletic activity even after the tissues have healed. Physical therapy after an ACL tear can last for 6 months or longer in some cases, after which time those same PT exercises should still be practiced regularly to improve and increase lower body strength.
Recovering After an ACL Tear? Contact Rehab 2 Perform
If you’re in need of physical therapy in Frederick, MD or Germantown, the professionals at Rehab 2 Perform are here to help you achieve peak performance. Whether you’re post ACL surgery or building up strength to prevent an ACL tear, give us a call at 301-798-4838 or fill out the contact form on our website to schedule an appointment.